United States On The Cusp Of Medical Malpractice Change

What do we mean when we say “change?” We mean creating a better life for Americans everywhere. How do we create that kind of a world? First, we hold people accountable when they won’t take responsibility for their own actions. The very idea of civil litigation was born from this belief. But we can’t truly hold others accountable for negligence if we place limitations on justice. Each case is different. Each case deserves to be heard and ruled upon based on its own merit.

That can mean different things. One doctor’s negligence (or medical malpractice) might cost a victim a few hundred bucks. Another doctor’s negligence might cost a victim his or her life. There’s a wide gap between the type of “cost” one medical malpractice case might find versus any other, which means there should be a wide berth given to prosecuting such cases. 

Unfortunately, most states place a “cap” on how much this litigation might cost the defendant. This kind of limitation reduces the authority of the courts to make fair judgement on behalf of a plaintiff. 

For example, one Washington lawyer attempted to sue a Virginia healthcare practice after his client was subjected to a traumatic brain injury (or TBI) after what should have been an easy surgery. Joseph Cammarata asked the court for $33.4 million on behalf of his client. An Arlington County jury ruled against the judgement based on a medical malpractice cap under current Virginia law.

It might be unfortunate, but sometimes judgements can lead to bankruptcy. That doesn’t mean they aren’t fair based on the nature of the case. Bankruptcy is one consequence of medical malpractice, just as much as losing a license is. And why shouldn’t this be the case? If a healthcare practitioner’s negligence causes this kind of pain and trauma, why shouldn’t that practitioner be held accountable?

The cap on damages is set to be raised one per year until 2031, when it will stand at nearly $2.95 million. That might sound like a lot, but to the plaintiffs it’s not nearly enough to repay what might be owed. This is why many state legislators are fighting to remove the cap altogether. 

Removing the cap would affect many healthcare establishments, which means any new legislation aimed at removing the medical malpractice statutory damages cap will be met with fierce criticism — and a lot of dollars will be spent lobbying to prevent it from happening in the first place.

One big difference between Virginia medical malpractice law and that of other states is that Virginia only applies these damages to direct monetary losses. That means that a person might be left suffering for a lifetime because of a doctor’s negligence, but won’t see another penny unless it was a direct loss. 

This also means that a person who suffers over the long-term might experience reduced productivity at work (or the inability to work), but won’t necessarily receive a better judgement because those are deemed “future losses” and are therefore considered indirect losses.